By Sofia E.
A young girl is standing in front of the mirror. She just finished her make-up and is now observing the result. The mascara makes her lashes look longer and her lips are shiny. She adjusts the push up bra before she puts on the new tank top for the evening. She takes a deep breath and holds in her stomach. She is pretty but no matter how hard she tries she will never be able to look like the women smiling back to her from the ads in the fashion magazines.
I believe many girls can identify with this image. Is this how the people behind the ads want us women to feel? I start to think the answer is yes. Now days a lot of ads are selling more than a product, also a hope of a better life and a new life style. A woman’s face and body has been used for years to sell different kinds of products, everything from make-up, to soft drinks and toothpaste. Before a typical commercial was showing a beautiful and vulnerable woman promoting a product, today’s commercials are way more sex focused. Half naked women might just do the trick to sell, for example, cars or motorcycles that are known as man orientated products.
The woman is sensual and desirable and the man next to her is well dressed, rich, athletic and powerful. Why does this type of advertising work? The impression “Sex sells” apparently is correct, and beautiful people, mostly women, draw people’s attention.
I think there are several explanations to this question. Both genders can be attracted to the female sex but in different ways so if you put a woman in your ad you reach a bigger group of people. One interesting example to verify my theory is a video clip that was made to show if men were to do the same type of ads as women. The men were not seen as equally sexy and it was instead humorous to watch. Imagine a man lay on the hood of a car, it just doesn’t appeal to me. The body of a woman has become known as sexier than a man’s body to both women and men.
A girl that sees a beautiful woman identifies with her and wants to be just like her. A boy seeing the same woman finds her sexy and starts to dream that he one day will have a girlfriend like that. The same ad might also send different messages how to make the dream come true. The girl needs to be good looking, thin with long hair while the boy needs to be successful, meaning, have a career and earn good money so he can buy expensive things which have become the stereotyped key to attract a beautiful girl.
So the first step is to spend money on clothes, make up, creams and things in order to get good looking because the message is clear, as a girl you need to be pretty. The risk is that young, more insecure, girls are willing to try it all to look as beautiful as the models do in magazines. In addition to that, they also might be fooled to believe that once they are beautiful happiness comes as a bonus.
So let’s put that together, women don’t feel good about themselves because they compare their faces and bodies with models in newspapers, so they start to believe that if they have the same weight or at least same products as the woman in the ads has, they would probably be as happy and beautiful. This makes women purchase a lot, especially in the beauty department.
The message this is sending to young girls who desperately want to fit in and find a place in society is one issue that is worrying me in particular. I grew up in this and I remember how frustrating it was to always compare you with others. I’m still affected even if I’m considered an adult now, and I live with the feeling that something is always missing. “Maybe if I lost a few pounds?” and I sometimes ask myself this, “Why don’t I do everything I can to look as good as I possibly can, all the time?” I’m probably not alone with those feelings either.
One thing that is more commonly showed in ads today are shirtless men, which presently sends the same image to men, they need to be athletic. Advertising has joined forces with sexism and now tell both gender what it means to be an adorable person. These days, regardless of gender, everyone gets affected.
In the article “The year in sexism” by Laura Bates, she wrote that in June 2012 “Two issues of now magazine appear side by side on newsagents’ shelves. One reports that the model Abbey Clancy is “dangerously thin” and girls are starving themselves to look like her. The other offers diet tips to get her figure.” This shows that media itself is really handling this in different ways, one is warning and one is encouraging. That doesn’t make people any smarter in choosing a lifestyle. The positive angles of showing in media men and women in good condition with beautiful hair and skin can hopefully inspire people to live a healthier lifestyle. Working out and eating healthy food is good for more things than just your figure. A better lifestyle make people live longer, relief stress and keep people more energized and positive. In some ways I want to believe that this sort of advertising also can generate some positive things to us regular people.
Finally I would like to say that this could be changing now when women are becoming so much more independent. Since women these days are educated and hardworking they no longer should need a man to provide for them or decide whether she’s worthy or not. However according to Jean Kilbourne who has been working with this for 40 years, it has only become worse.
Bates, Laura. “The year in sexism.” 141,5138. (2012): p18-18. Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.
“Killing Us Softly 4 - Trailer [Featuring Jean Kilbourne]” YouTube. Youtube, 24 Aug. 2012. Web. 1 Dec. 2013.
“Sexism in advertising: Today & Yesterday.” YouTube. YouTube, 12 Dec. 2011. Web. 14 Oct. 2013.
Wheeler Johnson, Margaret. “Sarah Zelinski, Kayla Hatzel and Dylan Lambi-Raine, Students, Challenge Sexist Advertising With Gender Role Reversal (VIDEO)” huffingtonpost.com. 13 may. 2013. Web. 14 Oct. 2013.